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Finding Aid to Patrick Breen Diary, 1846 November 20-1847 March 1
BANC MSS C-E 176  
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The diary of Patrick Breen was recorded between November 20, 1846 and March 1, 1847. At the time of the diary's composition, Breen and his family were part of a group of pioneers--which came to be known as the Donner Party--completing an overland journey from the Great Plains to California. The diary documents the harsh environmental conditions and hardships endured by the party, and ends on the day of arrival of a rescue party.
Patrick Breen was born in Ireland circa 1805. In 1828 he emigrated to Canada and sometime thereafter moved to Iowa territory, where he became the owner of a farm. In about 1831 he married Margaret (maiden name unknown). Breen was naturalized in 1844. Patrick and Margaret had seven children -- John, Edward, Patrick, Simon, Peter, James, and Isabella. In the spring of 1846, the Breen family joined a party of emigres bound for California. The party's ill-fated journey across the Sierra Nevada Mountains was partially documented in the diary Breen kept while stranded in a mountain camp at Donner (then called Truckee) Lake. After their rescue, the family arrived at Sutter's Fort, New Helvetia, in March of 1847. The Breens then lived for a short time on the Consumnes River and then in San Jose. In February of 1848 they settled in San Juan Bautista -- becoming its first non-Spanish-speaking residents -- where Breen would live as a rancher for the remainder of his life. Patrick Breen died in 1868.
The bound manuscript measures 17 x 12 cm. 32 digital objects
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Restricted original. Use microfilm copy only. Use of original only by permission of the Curator of the Bancroft Collection of Western Americana.